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How to build your own incubator


While we believe there is no substitute for a commercial incubator, on occasion the need for an incubator is immediate. If this is the case, you do have options. One design is cheap and easy to construct. It is also able to maintain a reliable temperature and aid in keeping the proper humidity.

The materials you will need are as follows:

1.) A fully submersible aquarium heater with a visible temperature dial.

2.) An appropriate sized all glass aquarium. Since we recommend using this incubator design in an emergency, most people will not need an aquarium larger than a 10 to twenty gallon long aquarium.

3.) A plastic shoebox. Sterilite or Rubbermaid brands work well.

4.) Vermiculite

5.) 3 bricks

6.) 1 thermometer/hygrometer

7.) Egg crate (light diffusing grate) cut to fit inside the aquarium.

8.) Styrofoam cut to fit the top of the tank and serve as a lid.

9.) Duct tape

Constructing the incubator is straight forward.

Step 1: Place the three bricks into the aquarium, one along each side and one in the center. All of them should be on their sides and going from front to back.

Step 2: Place the heater in front of the bricks with the desired temperature already set and visible(78-82 degrees is normal).

Step 3: Place your egg crate on the bricks. This will serve as a platform for your shoe box.

Step 4: Fill the bottom of the tank with water, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch of the bricks out of the water.

Step 5: Place the shoe box on the egg crate. Fill with moist vermiculite. A mixture of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water by volume, not weight is ideal. Squeeze out excess water so that the vermiculite clumps in your hand. Place the thermometer and hygrometer in a visible area inside the shoe box.

Step 6: Your eggs can now be placed in the shoebox and the shoebox lid secured. You may choose to place a strip of scrap egg crate on one side of the bottom of the shoebox. This will provide a slight angle allowing condensation to run down to the side rather than dripping on your eggs.

Step 7: Finally, construct the lid. You may choose to cut your styrofoam in half and tape the two halves together to create a hinged lid. One half can then be secured to the molding of the tank to make a tighter seal while the other half can be held down with a piece of duct tape taped to the molding. Or you can leave the styrofoam in one piece and create a good seal by placing a book on it.

Why this works

This design works well because the heated water will provide a heat source that is easily manipulated by adjusting the set temperature of the submersible aquarium heater. Air, above a given body of water will have the same temperature. The tight fitting styrofoam lid will prevent heated, humid air from escaping, creating a very stable temperature inside the aquarium. This stable air temperature will maintain the same stable temperature inside the shoebox with the eggs.

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